Olivia Walters scurried out of the college dormitory, shifting an armful of books to glance at her watch in a well-rehearsed move that could compete with an Olympic drill team.
It was 6:00 AM on April 15, 1970, the Monday after Spring Break. Olivia had chosen to remain on campus to put in more hours at the campus cafeteria to reduce her school loan balance. She had welcomed that week’s less hectic shifts.
“I’m not looking forward to the accelerated pace today. It’s bound to be busier than a prom queen’s dance card.”
Rebalancing her pile of books as she approached the employee entrance of the infamous cafeteria, located in the basement of the Administration Building, Olivia twisted the rusty doorknob with her free hand.
“Locked?! Mr. Harley should have been here an hour ago!”
“Hey, Olie! Need a stronger hand?” Jeff Arton grinned as he reached around her to again try the door—to no avail.
Cathy Swanee breathlessly approached from around the corner of the building.
“I’ve checked all four entrances and they’re all locked; no lights on anywhere, either. What do you suppose happened to Ol’ Hartley? ”
An open window a couple feet above the steel door became the solution. Olivia, the smallest in the group, was hiked up and squished through the miniscule space by her comrades, the alternate scenario being a mob of angry students with empty bellies storming the triangle. One scraped knee and rumpled clothing later, she scrunched through, plopping ungracefully down onto the storage room’s overflow freezer . . .
Half an hour later, Olivia and cohorts were at their assigned kitchen stations, loading students’ breakfast trays and keeping the food replenished. An ancient garbage disposal fondly named “E-GOR” by the workers, ate up the leftovers. The hungry gurgling monster emitted wet burps as the slop entered his mouth from Olivia’s hands, who also had the job of keeping his disgusting urps from overflowing the small kitchen sink. Another co-worker had neglected this important strategy, and they had scraped “Poor Man’s Stew” off the walls and ceilings for weeks. To avoid repeating that student’s coup de grace, Olivia continued to mash EGOR’S meal into acceptable cupful bites that would not give him indigestion. This was the normal Freshman-delegated lowliest kitchen job.
“Come on, boy, don’t fail me now! We’ve just started and you’re already becoming belligerent.”
Ben Hartley shuffled up behind Olivia to lend his assistance.
“Heard you had to improvise this mornin’, Olie. Thanks for saving the day. My electricity went out in the night and I overslept.”
He made the rounds to each of the kitchen’s work stations, checking to make sure that nothing had been distrupted by his earlier absence.
“FIRE IN THE HOLE!” Olivia’s warning prompting everyone within hearing distance to take cover.
Dishtowels flew on top of heads, pan lids became shields and scrambled bodies dove under butcher’s blocks, employee dining tables and sinks for shelter.
A zillion shredded pieces of regurgitated syrupy pancakes, slimy oatmeal, toast crusts, ketchup-covered hash browns, blended blueberry muffins, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, mashed bananas and unidentifiable foods from a slew of yesterdays spewed into the air like exploding fireworks.
Damage control clean-up crews were dispatched to the horrific scene right out of a Frankenstein horror movie. Meanwhile, E-GOR’S mechanic proclaimed his demise. Unfortunately, the kitchen budget was exhausted, so Olivia was now delegated an even lowlier chore of hand-swiping each turned-in food tray into triple-lined garbage pails, which was messier and more time-consuming than the previous process with E-GOR, not to mention dragging the filled bags to the outside stinky dumpster.
“Never thought I would miss E-GOR so much,” Olivia muttered every day left in the school year.
The only upside to the whole situation was that she would become a sophomore next term and would graduate to dishwasher filling/emptying duties.
The following Fall found Olivia at her first day to the familiar college cafeteria kitchen. She smirked to herself as she passed by the sign above E-GOR’S former stand where a sign was posted:
“FRESHMEN will hand-swipe each returned food tray into the garbage pails and remove to outdoor dumpster when filled. New garbage disposal awaiting administrative approval.”
Olivia walked over her new station to load the dirty dishes, only to discover an “OUT-OF-ORDER” placard taped to its front. Olivia’s smirk turned into a grimace as she continued reading:
“SOPHOMORES will hand-wash and dry all dirty dishes and return them to shelves until further notice”
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